Comic reviews week beginning 1/9/16
Is it surprising that a comic series is being released in the same week as a similarly titled big budget film featuring a very similar cast of characters…Nah, it’s not surprising at all, but what is encouraging is that artist Philip Tan and writer Rob Williams has brought the Suicide Squad back to its roots.
The issue deals directly with the reformation of the squad by Amanda Waller in (initially) direct opposition from President Obama. Fans of the John Ostrander run will easily recognise ‘The Wall’ as the badass kingpin of the entire operation, and this issue proves she hasn’t changed at all. As previously mentioned, the Suicide squad at the beginning of the issue consists of: Captain Boomerang, Harley Quinn and Deadshot. Whilst this is a relatively small cast to begin with this setup proves to be wise, providing small character moments and interactions and providing a solid base to introduce new members.
It would be amiss to write a review on this book without discussing Philip Tan’s art. Coloured by Alex Sinclair, it appears as though through some black magic crazy-how, DC have managed to clone a mishmash early/modern Jim Lee. This should be interpreted neither as an insult nor an accusation of tracing, it is simply uncanny how much of a similarity the two artists share. To that end, the same critiques seem apparent for both artists. Dynamism, energy and fun bounce off every page with the explosion of action and passion of each character. Once so often the detail does go into overkill mode regarding etchings on faces whilst background figures get neglected, but when the art is this pretty I’m not going to complain too much.
Would relapsing fans be as interested in this series as those who had never touched a suicide squad book before? I’d be confident in saying so. There’s plenty of room for this series to grow into character book whilst dealing with geopolitical issues should it take that route. Alternatively it’ll turn into a romp with pretty art. Either way, I’ll be sticking around for the ride and I hope new readers do too.
Oliver Quinn is currently the going through a tough time. His company has been controlled by an organisation called the ninth circle, he’s practically penniless and has half sister Emiko has turned against him. Perhaps because of all this, Green Arrow #4 is one of the best books on the stand.
Benjamin Percy really delves into the determination and grit of Oliver Quinn as he attempts to take down the ninth circle. First however he has to deal with a former best frien with a score to settle. With this respect the issue focuses most of its efforts on establishing the transition to the finale, in which is bound to be an outstanding climax. The pacing, dialogue and exposition makes the story feel almost like Indiana Jones, a dashing squashbuckling adventurer with little to lose taking on a sinister cabal. It’s certainly worth mentioning that Black Canary also kicks her fair share of ass too, for those concerned.
Juan Ferreya one again knocks the art duties of of the park, making the ninth circle look horrendously sinister whilst delivering the entire book bathed in wonderful blue green and red hues. Action and fight scenes still remain a highlight, as appropriately jaunty paneling force a nervous tension in-scene. The Ninth Circle are depicted with consistent body horror and their origins are reminiscent of The Temple of Doom. And of course again I have to commend Ferreyas portrayal of Black Canary.
Green Arrow is the kind of book I am excited to read each week, proving to be a fun and gorgeous exploration of who Oliver Quinn is. If you haven’t started it yet I implore you to catch up as soon as you can!
Aquaman has always had a great conundrum within its premise, namely how does Atlantis exist with the surface world? From Peter David’s hand hooked stoic badass to Geoff Johns more grounded heroic portrayal in the New 52, whenever that question has been passed it’s often been hand waved of, citing perpetual tension but little exploration. Aquaman #4 does not shy to take this question seriously and to great effect.
With the previous mini-arc showing Atlantis-U.S. relations In a fraught state after Black Manta attacked the Atlantean embassy, the first page of Aquaman #4 deals with the aftermath of diplomatic relations. In an effort to ease tensions Aquaman PS himself in the position depicted on the cover-in chains. Will this effort work, or is it all in vain? Abnett has taken these questions and answered them perfectly, with each character being pitch perfect.
Philippe Briones handles art duties very well, meshing old school line work with a story that focuses on a very modern issue. Colouring by Gael Altaeb reinforces the brightness and colour in order to lighten the mood of the book. It would be very easy to drive into a gritty political tone through the art, but Altaeb brings it level with an almost retro colour scheme.
Aquaman #4 continues a run that to my mind would probably begin to star amongst the most interesting. Actually taking time to deal with a more political and social topic is one I’m certainly more partial to, especially when Aquaman and Mera are involved. This book is certainly worth adding to your pull list if you have an affinity to great cliffhangers and an interest in Aquaman.
I’m going to be honest and admit that prior to this series, my interest in the Green Lanterns in general was practically nil. I had read and enjoyed Blackest Night, the mega-crossover written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Ivan Reis, but that was it. In this regard whilst the potential of heroes that can literally go all over the universe can be appealing a more reductive stance is appreciated.
By getting these under developed Green Lanterns, (Jessica Cruz and Baz Simon) to remain on earth and be connected, Sam Humphries keeps this buddy-cop trope working impressively well. The threat of the Red Lanterns creates a compelling plot device, both heroes go down on their luck and have to figure a way out. It’s a worn path but the context and execution make Green Lanterns #4 one of the books I look forward to simply because it’s so much fun. Humphries seems to be having a whale of a time making Jessica and Baz tick and bounce off each other.
Art is again turning to a group effort, with Ed Benes, Robson Rocha and Tom Derenick on pencils with Rob Hunter, Mark Irwin, Vicinte Cifurntes, Jay Leistein, Tom Palmer and Marc Deering on inks. It continues to amaze me how this book does not look like the worst kind of hodge podge considering it’s not even six issues in. Some crazy how it remains consistent throughout and delivers the effect it should. The emotional core remains resonant and the sheer quantity of cooks in the kitchen do not spoil the enjoyment of the book.
Considering the small army that turned out to create this book it remains a consistent vision, all things taken into account. Ultimately the sheer enjoyment I experienced reading this book would outweigh any quibbles regarding the art, which on the whole is still absolutely fine. If you’re not reading Green Lanterns then I have to say you’re missing out.
Comics released 10/08/2016
Within the past two years DC Comics fans have been party to three interpretations of the origin of Wonder Woman. “Wonder Woman: Earth One” took a very 1930s uncompromising approach that embraced the wackier side of Diana Prince’s history. “The Legend of Wonder Woman” was more of an all ages approach released digitally first and sought to retell the origins with a grounded approach. The even-issued current ongoing series goes longform. These are the big guns (and creator names) updating the record books to provide a comprehensive and definitive view of who mainstream Wonder Woman is going forward.
Writer Greg Rucka hits three or four of the story beats Wonder Woman fans know of by heart. What is most commendable is how these moments occur and have attention paid to them, yet the pacing is perfect. Rest assured there is no hyper decompression to drag out what happens. Characters across the board are played by pitch, and none of it seems by the book or clunky. In all honesty this may be the mainstream depiction of Wonder Woman’s origin that is referenced for years to come.
That is not to mention nothing of Nicola Scott’s depiction of Themyscera and Diana Prince herself. As she has mentioned many times before in interview, this is the project she had been waiting for for a while. And boy does it show. It is clear that every effort is made to squeeze the most out of facial expressions and the architecture. Her paneling had developed into creating an incredible sense of peace and drama, most notably during one of Diana’s most iconic scenes. Romulo Fajardo Jr should not be forgotten for bringing a joy and life to paradise island through beautiful colouring.
Is Wonder Woman #4 worth your money and time? Absolutely. With about a year until her solo movie comes out there’s never been a better time to relax and enjoy an origin story told very well from people who desperately care for such an iconic character.
Problems from a lot of relatively original stories usually originate from one of three specific areas. One is certainly whether the character is compelling enough to be used in the story. Another is whether the story is actually a good enough to use the characters in a way that will keep people interested. The final and probably hardest is whether a story knows what kind of form it wants to take. This means being a police procedural, buddy cop or fish out of water type of story. The final form sets the tone and allows the characters to explore themselves through the story.
Gene Luen Yang knows exactly how to line up the story, character and tone and displays this very well in The New Super-Man #2. Our “hero” Kenan Kong is endearingly stupid and arrogant. Everyone around him treats him with friendly (and with The Batman of China’s case, outright) contempt. This is an origin story that takes the usual trappings of a shady government metahuman programme and treats it with a sparkle and humour that makes it a joy to read.
Viktor Bogdanivic brings great line work to the pages, creating a world that does ask you to question just why a superhero team created by the government in a positive way hasn’t been explored as well. Bogdanivic really sparkles with faces and the physical comedy, and colour enhancements by Richard Friend provide a distinctive look of the book.
The New Super-Man is fast becoming a book I look forward to each week, and it’s one I would really recommend as a really accessible for new readers.
Scott Snyder just can’t get away from Batman. I can’t blame him really, and when it was first announced that he would be writing a batman book with a variety of artists telling as series of stories, it was an easy sell. So how is it?
The first and main story is a dark buddy road trip between Batman and Two Face. Harvey Dents’ sane personality has called to the Batman to help him, whilst the Two Faces’ personality had put an ultimatum out that is designed to get everyone to stop them. Snyder writes this Batman with less commentary than his run on the main Batman title, and although there is an increase in Bruce being snarky to compensate, none of it feels overbearing. The second story focuses on Batman and his new “ward” in dealing with a mysterious killer whilst providing a backdrop for Dukes training. Both stories have intriguing premises and are framed very well.
The powerhouse that is John Romita Junior is on penciling duties for the first story with Dan White on colours. It really does show how much art can change with a Red different colour palette. Normally the colours on his work are very flat, but a gradient with bright and light colours really impress, much like they did in The Dark Knight: The Last Crusade. Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire provide art and colours respectively for the supplementary story. The newly engaged couple show off their chops and demonstrate why they are some of the best in the business today.
All Star Batman #1 is a great start off the mark for Scott Snyder. Getting a focus on different and offbeat villains should prove to allow additional areas for the series to explore. This series will certainly be worth following for future issues to see how all that had been set up will be paid off.
The Hanna Barbera line has gone under a drastic reinvention lately. With a completely modern update from Scooby Doo and Wacky Racers (retitled Wacky Raceland) so it’s a nice surprise to see that the series deliberately set in the stone age has remained there. What’s an even better surprise is that the series is not only genuinely funny, but is a biting social satire.
Writer/stand up comic Mark Russell fills Bedrock with a series of hilarious cultural explorations. In this second issue alone there are comments of capitalism, consumer culture and religion. Putting that in words makes it sound like a deep introspective, but rest assured it’s light-hearted and surprisingly emotional, especially the final page.
Yet any amount of comedy has to be a mixture of writing and physical presence, and Steve Pugh on art and Chris Chuckry on colours compliment the writing and vision perfectly. Every male character is incredibly muscular yet either dim witted and nice or smart and a conman. Though it’s the small details. Background jokes and name pun similarities to modern life that really add to the pages and keep each panel worth studying.
The Flintstones #2 is a stellar addition to the Hanna Barbera line from DC, I do hope it gets more publicity so it can get the praise and attention it deserves.
By Alex Knight
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